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Members of the Surfing America USA Surf Team attend training camp in San Clemente

Surfing America USA Surf Team members (L to R) Ryland Rubens, Colt Ward, Luke Gordon, Tia Blanco, Malia Osterkamp and Steffi Kerson take a break from a competitive game of Ping-Pong at the team house in San Clemente on Tuesday. Photo by Andrea Swayne
Surfing America USA Surf Team members (L to R) Ryland Rubens, Colt Ward, Luke Gordon, Tia Blanco, Malia Osterkamp and Steffi Kerson take a break from a competitive game of Ping-Pong at the team house in San Clemente on Tuesday. Photo by Andrea Swayne

By Andrea Swayne

Members of the U18 Surfing America USA Surf Team from across the country assembled in San Clemente Tuesday for training camp to prepare for the 2014 International Surfing Association World Junior Surfing Championship.

With ISA World Juniors coming up April 5-13 in Ecuador, team officials and coaches are looking to finalize the travel team roster and bring the team of surfers together as a well-prepared unit ready to go for the gold.

“Aside from rigorous training, one of the most important things is bonding,” said Greg Cruse, Surfing America’s executive director. “We’ve made a lot of progress in putting together a cohesive team from a bunch of athletes who day-to-day are used to surfing individually for personal reward, sponsorships and media exposure. We now have a group of kids who pull for each other, hold each other up and realize the magnitude of representing their country on the world stage.”

The national team is chosen from among the best competing in amateur surf series that are members of Surfing America, the ISA recognized governing body for surfing in the United States. The San Clemente-based nonprofit organization—with a generous housing donation by the owner of a T Street area vacation rental—is hosting the team for three days of physical training, mental training and bonding. The team is practicing at a variety of south Orange County surf breaks, working out, attending a talk by a sports psychologist and learning to cooperate, compromise and live together.

Local San Clemente surfers said they feel lucky to be joined by teammates from across the country for training on their home turf.

Tia Blanco, 16, said she is enjoying the camp because it brings together so much talent and lifts up her game by making her more determined to succeed.

“Working here with my teammates is special because surfing really is an individual sport and it is really empowering to feel a part of something greater,” Blanco said.

Colton Ward, 16, agrees, adding that he feels honored to host his fellow team members in his home town and share with them all the places he trains every day.

“We are also getting used to staying in a house together, pulling together and getting ready to take on the best teams from around the world,” Ward said. “We don’t always get to practice together so when we do it reminds me that I’m part of something bigger outside of my own individual career goals.”

Ward and Blanco are joined by California surfers Malia Osterkamp of San Clemente; Jake Davis, Capistrano Beach; Kylie Loveland, Carlsbad; Steffi Kerson, Thousand Oaks; Ryland Rubens, Pacific Beach; Nic Hdez, Santa Cruz and Thelen McKinna-Worrell and Frankie Harrer, both from Malibu. Team members who have traveled from the East Coast include Florida surfer Daniel Glenn, Luke Gordon from North Carolina and Maddie Peterson from New Jersey.

Individual performances during the camp will help head coach Ryan Simmons fill open travel team slots in Girls U18 and Boys U18 divisions.

“ISA World Juniors is a long and grueling eight-day event so preparation is key,” Simmons said. “We’ll be running heats, breaking down technical stuff, working on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and working on our game both in and out of the water. The talent is there but we cannot hope to win a medal without the support of the athletes for each other. Forming the bonds and friendships needed to make it through in top form will boost our chances at winning a gold medal.”

The team brought home a bronze medal at last year’s ISA Juniors in Nicaragua, its best result since 2004. The head coaching team, made up of ex-pro surfers Simmons and Micah Byrne, are in their second year at the helm of Team USA.

Visit www.isasurf.org and www.surfingamerica.org to find out more.

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About The Author Dana Point Times

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